Hi everyone — my name is Abigail. I’m 24 years old, I live in Chicago, Illinois, and I am bad with numbers. Truly — I’m not just saying that so I can write an article. I avoid math at all costs — unless it’s figuring out how much more I have to spend to hit the free-shipping mark. Numbers don’t come easily to me, and I’ve never wanted to spend more time than necessary dealing with them.
But here’s the unfortunate truth — I hate numbers and money and budgeting, but I love wine nights out with my friends, overpriced spin classes, and traveling near and far. As a certified Functioning Adult™, I understand that these things can only be enjoyed when I have enough money for them. And to have enough money for them — you guessed it! — I need a budget (and budgets involve numbers — womp womp).
That’s why I was honestly so excited when I heard about YNAB — a modern, user-friendly budgeting service for those of us who aren’t great with numbers and money (and also for those of you who are, you lucky little friends of mine!). YNAB (which aptly stands for You Need a Budget) is the answer to your money woes — it’s a solution that will help you save money, stop living paycheck to paycheck, and finally make sense of your own finances. Can I get an A-FREAKING-MEN.
Here, I break down how I, a person who hates numbers and money, am able to budget for the things I actually care about with the money I actually make (Thanks, YNAB!).
1. Get rid of the stigma that “budget” is a dirty word.
So many people (my former self included) think of budgeting as a scary concept — or at the very least, an un-fun concept. To be “on a budget” is often synonymous with saying no to things or turning down fun, spontaneous experiences. YNAB teaches that a budget is not something to shy away from — rather, it’s an opportunity to take control.
You OWN your money — it’s YOURS. You decide what to do with it — but to budget is to do so intelligently, with purpose, and with direction. According to YNAB, budgeting isn’t about never spending money — it’s about thinking hard about what you really want and what really makes you happy, and then making a plan to be sure you have money for those things (and THAT is something I can get on board with!).
2. Decide where you want (and need) your money to go.
Before you even THINK about the numbers behind your budget, it’s time to sit down and write a list of the things you spend money on.
As much as I hate writing a check every month, much of my income goes to rent. It also goes to utilities, public transportation costs, and bills. For most of us, rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance, and utilities are non-negotiable costs.
Once you write down all the things you HAVE to spend money on, it’s actually pretty fun to sit down and think about all the things you ENJOY spending money on.
A few places your money might be going, just to get you started:
- PETS! Pets are incredible, but expensive. Pet food, appointments, treats, toys, supplies, etc.
- Dining out/bars/restaurants/happy hours
- Experiences — museums, brewery tours, guided hikes, movies, and more.
- Travel — planes, trains, and automobiles/hotels/Airbnbs/rental cars
- Wellness — gym membership, facials, massages, jade rollers, fitness classes, wellness retreats
- Transportation (Ubers add up!)
- Philanthropy — donations, charity, church offerings, sponsorships, friends’ GoFundMe pages
Once you decide where your money HAS to go and where you WANT it to go, you can begin to effectively budget how much goes to each of those things.
3. Make a personalized game plan.
Once you know what you typically spend money on, you can learn how to improve upon that. A great tool like YNAB can do just that — YNAB’s system functions on a 4-ruled system.
- Give Every Dollar A Job. Know what you’re going to do with your money before you spend it.
- Embrace Your True Expenses. Put aside money every month for larger, less frequent expenses like Christmas, car repairs, etc. That way you’ll be stress-free when a big expense hits.
- Roll With The Punches. A budget isn’t rigid — you can update your budget as your circumstances and priorities change. So if you overspend at Sephora (no judgement) or say yes to that second bottle at dinner (been there), you can reallocate funds and stay on track.
- Age Your Money. Build up a cushion so that you’re spending money you earned 30 days ago! Living paycheck to paycheck can feel simple at the time, but the key is to make it last. YNAB can show you how.
4. Sign up for YNAB.
Once you’ve seen what you spend your money on, it’s time to use YNAB’s four rules and move forward with the rest of your life. YNAB breaks your finances down into categories:
- Immediate Obligations (rent, utilities, etc.)
- True Expenses (auto maintenance, clothes, insurance, etc.)
- Debt payments (loans, etc.)
- Quality of Life Goals (vacation, fitness, etc.)
- Just For Fun (dining out, experiences, etc.).
This helps you categorize where your money went last month, where it’s going currently, and what you want to save money for in the future. It’s that simple!
Example: I live in an expensive city where my rent is higher than I’d like, but I don’t have a car. I don’t have pets or children, but it’s important to me to pay for a gym, to save money for future travel, and to set aside some money to spend on material purchases. I don’t have student loans, but I do have some credit card debt. YNAB helps me see how often I can dine out, make an impulse purchase, or say yes to a girls’ weekend (hint: It’s more often than I expected!).
So you want some more details on the app? Glad you asked. YNAB is a web, iOS, and Android-enabled app that costs $6.99/month, billed annually at $83.99 (but if you sign up now, you get two months FOR FREE!). You can stay up to date with your finances on the go (with the app on your phone) and at home (with the easy-to-read desktop web version). Link your accounts, input your information, sync to your bank (YNAB syncs with over 12,000 different banks!), and start saving. I check my YNAB when I wake up in the morning and again throughout the day — whenever I’m debating a purchase (Do I really need that 2pm iced Americano?) or just want to feel a little more connected. I’m currently using it to stay on track for my goal of buying myself a new bedframe (dream big, amiright) as a Christmas present.
5. Go forth and SAVE MONEY!
Even if you don’t love what you learn from your budgeting history and the current state of your finances, it’s SO important to get a sense of where you are and what you’re working with. Instead of shying away from the cold hard truth of your bank account, a budget allows you to take control of the situation, learn from your own mistakes, and move forward positively.
I’m SO thankful that I took stock of my spending choices, reevaluated my priorities, and am moving forward to be the most financially savvy version of myself. I think of myself as being pretty good at cooking for myself at home — I don’t often buy workday lunches or order pizza. But from looking at my budget, I learned that I go a little too hard when I DO go out — just because I said no to Jimmy John’s at lunch, doesn’t mean I get to say yes to an appetizer and dessert. Big purchases less frequently can be just as dangerous as those frequent small purchases — so I’m learning to balance. I’m not perfect (and my financial knowledge certainly never will be), but I can take control of my money, how I spend it, and where it’s going. And so can you.
Sign up today for a FREE two-month trial and see what you can accomplish by taking control of your money and taking charge of your life. On average, new users save $600 in the first two months with YNAB.
This post was in partnership with You Need a Budget, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.